Industry Insights: Hey Reprographers, Who Moved Our Cheese?

There is a popular book that characterizes mice seeking cheese within a maze, and uses them as a metaphor for the need to change. In Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson, M.D. created four characters, each with a different personality and approach to life. For purposes of illustration, try to view the characters as reprographers and the cheese as AEC, paper, digital processes, or anything your business covets.

Sniff and Scurry had simple brains and good instincts. Hem and Haw had many beliefs and emotions. They lived in a large maze with various corridors and chambers, some which held an abundance of delicious cheese. Sniff and Scurry used a trial and error method of finding cheese. Sniff relied on his great sense of smell, and scurry was good at racing ahead. Hem and Haw used their brains to develop sophisticated methods of finding the cheese, but their emotions and entitlement mentality often took over and clouded their views.

Each mouse found a lot of cheese in different places. Every day, Sniff and Scurry took the same route, ran to the same mound of cheese and enjoyed it. Hem and Haw awoke later, dressed slower and walked to the cheese. They assumed the cheese would always be there, and regarded it as their cheese. Having cheese makes you happy.

Each mouse thought they deserved the cheese, as they had to work long and hard to find it. Hem and Haw’s confidence grew into arrogance; they didn’t notice their supply was depleting. One day, there was no more cheese. Sniff and Scurry weren’t surprised. They saw their situation was changing. While Hem and Haw were hemming and hawing, Sniff and Scurry were seeking new piles of cheese. The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.

Eventually, Hem and Haw thought, “Where are Sniff and Scurry?” Sniff was sniffing and Scurry was scurrying. They found a bigger mound of cheese. Meanwhile, Hem and Haw were still analyzing their situation. Every day, they went to the same cheese station where the cheese used to be, hoping it would be there again. They were in denial that their cheese was gone.

The cheese never reappeared. Haw knew they had lost their edge. “We keep doing the same things over and over and wonder why things don’t get better,” Haw said. If you do not change, you become extinct.

Hem wondered, “Who moved my cheese?” while Haw pondered, “Why didn’t I get up and move with the cheese sooner?” Haw started through the maze looking for new cheese, while Hem stayed behind. As Haw began his search, he ran through several dark corridors and blind alleys. Just as he thought he was making progress, he ran into another dead end. Hunting for cheese wasn’t as bad as he thought. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

The cheese had not disappeared overnight. Haw knew he should have seen it coming. Change probably would not have taken him by surprise if he had been watching what was happening and if he had anticipated change. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.

Haw decided to stay more alert from now on. He would expect change to happen, trust his instincts and be ready to adapt. Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.

There was a long, dark corridor. Fear prevented Haw from traveling it in the past. Once he let go of the fear, he was ready to proceed. When you move beyond your fear, you feel free

Haw had been held captive by his own fear, and recognized that change leads to something better. He started picturing himself eating all the kinds of cheeses. Imaging yourself enjoying new cheese before you find it leads you to it.

Haw came upon a new cheese station but, when he entered, he found it was empty. Someone had beaten him to it. If only he moved sooner, he would have found new cheese. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese

What made Haw happy wasn’t having the cheese. He actually liked the journey. He also realized: It is safer in the maze than to remain in a cheese-less situation.

What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. You start to think more about what could go wrong than what could go right. So…Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.

Haw hadn’t found new cheese but learned: when you change what you believe, you change what you do. It all depends on what you choose to believe: When you see that you can find and enjoy new cheese, you change course.

As Haw continued his search, he had another thought: Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.

When it seemed like he’d been in the maze forever, Haw’s journey ended quickly and happily. He came upon the greatest supply of cheese he had ever seen. When he went inside the new cheese station, he saw cheeses he had never seen before. He also saw Sniff and Scurry.

Haw thought about his friend, Hem. Had he ever decided to move on? Should he go back to get him? No. He already tried to help. Hem would have to find his own way just as Haw did.

While Haw had a great new supply of cheese, he knew it wouldn’t last forever. Each day, he inspected the condition of the cheese. He went out into the maze and explored new areas to stay in touch with what was happening around him. He was able to: Move with the cheese and enjoy it!

Did Hem ever find new cheese? You decide for yourself. Some people never change. They feel as though they’re entitled to their cheese and feel like victims when it’s taken away from them and blame others.

Now answer one question: Are you a Sniff, a Scurry, a Hem, or a Haw?